Beauty in the Architecture of Death

Having received some inspiration  from an article read months ago (see bottom of blog) I kept in my heart the desire to photograph some mausoleums. The time was finally right and I went forth on a sunny weekday afternoon.

The first mausoleum was the Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, IL. Not having previously been in one,  I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was surprising, however,  to find the doors locked. Apparently, the cemetery has  a history of vandalism and they keep the dead under lock and key. After a trip to the office to explain my intent,  they kindly provided a key.  The interior didn’t disappoint since the architecture therein was rather beautiful. The original building followed a very classic design with a more modern-style addition butted up against it when the original was getting full.





Without really knowing the background of Springdale,  it does appear to be rather austere and stoic. While religious imagery is found within, as exampled by the stained glass windows found in the new sections, this is not a place to find comfort, but a place to mourn. This really was brought home by my visit to a second mausoleum that day, a Roman Catholic cemetery on the north side of Peoria.  The lighting, the furniture and the decor made this place surprisingly warm and inviting.  Chairs and couches lined the middle of the “aisles” with small coffee tables for people to place items, reminders of their deceased loved ones.  This was truly a place of solace.



One thing that, being a non-Roman Catholic I found odd was the electronic candles. In times past people would pay for candles (vigil lights) to be burned, but due to fire hazards, managing inventories or perhaps just better profit margins they replaced the candles with electric lights that mimicked candles.  To activate the lights, mourners would put in dollar bills into a machine to activate a light for a set period of time. To me, this opens up a whole raft of questions, but it is best to leave it at that.


I must say that after photographing these two places, my interest in photograph mausoleums has not abated. There is beauty and contemplation in these places that we often try to forget.  Perhaps, if we spend time coming to terms with our own mortality,  we may live our lives more fully.


If you enjoyed these photos, there are more to be found at my Flickr set.

 The inspiration for photographing the interior of mausoleums came from seeing a series of photographs by John Faier shown in PDN’s Photo Of The Day blog .



Leave a comment